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“The Last Dance” Episode 3-4 recap: D-Rod in Vegas, Bulls-Pistons rivalry, Phil Jackson origins

We recap Episodes 3-4 of “The Last Dance” on ESPN from Sunday night. Michael Jordan and the Bulls take down Magic and the Lakers for their first championship.

Michael Jordan speaks during the celebration of the Chicago Bulls 20th anniversary of their first NBA Championship during a special half time program on March 12, 2011 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Ray Amati/NBAE via Getty Images

Episode 4 recap

Note: Episode 3 recap is below. Also, there are spoilers.

We kicked off Episode 4 right where we left Episode 3 .... READY FOR THE CARMEN ELECTRA CAMEO! D-Rod has his vacation, which lasts a little longer than expected. The Bulls did such a good job taming Rodman by letting him roam free. He’s a peacock, you got to let him fly. Well, Rodman flew too high in Las Vegas for too long and MJ had to drag D-Rod out of bed with Carmen Electra. Can you even fathom that happening? You’re Carmen Electra and the greatest basketball player ever storms in yelling at your hungover boyfriend to get his ass up and on the court again.

The Taming of the Rodman is well documented in this episode. The anecdote about Rodman making the entire team chase him for four laps is peak D-Rod on the court. He was a hardo and that’s why so many people hated him, and loved him. All of these storylines are so movie-esque. The whole Phil Jackson-Dennis Rodman Indian bond is great. It’s the polar opposites attract kind of thing. Or it’s the outcasts join together narrative. Either way it worked and D-Rod was able to co-exist on the Bulls pretty easily.

The big characters in this series are the ones we’re getting insight into on a personal level. Jackson came up in the NBA with the New York Knicks and finished his career with them, winning two championships in the process. His journey after his playing career brought him to weird places before landing in Chicago. Working side-by-side with Tex Winters opened up Jackson’s mind to the Triangle Offense. Phil replaced Doug Collins as coach in 1990 and the rest is history. There are a lot of situations where “the rest is history” is a useful term when talking about these Bulls.

The Passing of the Torch narrative we always see in basketball is well represented in Episode 4. We continue with the Bulls vs. Pistons rivalry. Detroit gets the best of the Bulls by one game in 1990, when Scottie Pippen infamously gets sick before Game of the East Finals. The Pistons win and go back-to-back ships.

Jordan is done losing to the Pistons. The team toughens up and goes after Detroit in 1991, beating the Pistons in a clean sweep four games to make a statement. They show Pippen getting shoved by Rodman in that game, getting up, and smashing the Pistons before they walked off the court, failing to shake hands. MJ calls out Isiah Thomas and calls him an asshole. Let’s go. The Bulls have exorcised the demons and are in the NBA Finals for the first time.

It’s the Showtime Lakers vs. MJ and the Bulls. Magic Johnson goes into Chicago and takes Game 1. Jordan responds by going bonkers in Game 2, Pippen locks down Magic and the Bulls even the series. The Bulls go on the road and take the next two games in Los Angeles. Game 5. One more game away from the first championship. Game 5 in L.A. Back and forth. The game is tied late and MJ starts feeding John Paxson? What? It’s working though and ultimately leads to the Bulls winning their first NBA Finals. That was the type of teammate Jordan was and it was a fitting end to his first title — showcasing his ability to be the ultimate teammate to achieve the goal. Win it all.

The episode ends with the Bulls on the team plane after the Broncos beat the Packers in the Super Bowl in 1998. Jordan knew how to get under people’s skin, man. We also get into the post-Jordan-Jackson era sort of taking shape. There were question marks as to whether Jordan would come back after the 1997-98 season. More hate coming Jerry Krause’s way for another week. We’ve got Jazz vs. Bulls in the regular season — a Finals preview. The Bulls fight back to beat the Bulls, sweeping Chicago in Utah. Little did we know, Krause would just piss Jordan off so much he’d go bring home the goods.

Episode 3 Recap

Dennis Rodman. Oh what a journey you went on to get to where you are today. Episode 3 of “The Last Dance” was all D-Rod. The D-Rod episode did not disappoint. It starts with Rodman and ends with Rodman. From his time early on in basketball, to his rise with the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons and evolution into a 90s icon. The dyed hair, the trash talking, the technical fouls, the defense, the rebounding. Rodman was a house.

Rodman’s role in the Chicago Bulls dynasty was crucial. He was the missing piece to a puzzle that really didn’t need solving. The Bulls had the core in place but were missing a lockdown defender, a grease guy, somebody who could piss off the other team. The villain. A protector for Jordan with no Charles Oakley. Rodman had played the role so well while with the Pistons, a team that in the late 80s had the Bulls’ and Jordan’s number. No matter how hard Chicago tried in the late 80s, they couldn’t shake the Bad Boy Pistons.

Before the Bulls had to deal with Detroit, the episode highlights “The Shot” by Jordan in the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round vs. the Cavaliers. The heavily favored Cavaliers at the time. It goes over the end of that Game 5, down to the final possession. It was funny to see Jordan’s former teammate Ron Harper get into the series. Harper wanted to guard Jordan on the final shot. Instead it was Craig Ehlo. The rest is history, history that Harper still isn’t too happy about.

After that series, the episode breaks down “The Jordan Rules” put into place because of the physical nature of the Detroit Pistons. They figured if Jordan is going to score, don’t let him score without paying for it. This basically changed the game forever, making superstars tougher to guard because you couldn’t manhandle them anymore. You had to play the game. The episode interviews a few former Pistons, including Isiah Thomas, John Salley and Rodman.

We go back to Rodman briefly, mostly to see how the Bulls came about signing him in Chicago. After things got rough in Detroit, the Pistons dealt Rodman to the San Antonio Spurs, where he lasted two seasons before the Bulls brought him in. Rodman came along for the second three-peat, leading the NBA in rebounding in 1995-96 in his first season with MJ and Scottie Pippen. Coach Phil Jackson recalls the first meeting between he and Rodman as going awful.

The end of the episode leaves us with the Pippen storyline. Scottie flips and decides to return to the team after holding out during the 1997-98 season. Pippen didn’t want to get fined essentially and really didn’t expect himself to be traded. Oh wait, D-Rod has Cheetah hair, which is a top 5 Rodman hair style. With no Pippen, Rodman was MJ’s right hand man. With Scottie back, things would need to change back to Jordan-Pippen 1-2 punch. Rodman falls off the wagon. TWO DAYS IN VEGAS WITH D-ROD! Will it tear down the dynasty!?! Will it compromise everything the Bulls worked for that season?!? Find out on Episode 4, next!